Inspectioneering Journal

Effective Integrity Management Programs for Steam Reformers

By Kelsey Hevner at Quest Integrity Group. This article appears in the November/December 2014 issue of Inspectioneering Journal.


Steam reformers are critical assets for the successful operation of hydrogen, ammonia, and methanol plants. The steam reformer is also one of the most expensive assets in these facilities. Catalyst tubes inside the reformer are one of the most important and costly components. A typical retube for a 200-tube reformer can cost $4,000,000 USD, not including the cost of catalyst. In addition, procurement lead time for tubes can be 17 weeks or more. A typical syngas plant loses approximately $250,000 per day when shutdown. Coupling retube costs with the plants’ production loss can cost the business millions, making managing the integrity of this asset crucial.

An effective integrity management program for steam reformers that focuses on tube integrity encompasses these essential parts: inspection, data analysis, and remaining life assessment. An integrated inspection and assessment methodology has significant economic benefits including minimizing the risk of unplanned shutdowns due to tube failure, allowing reformers to be operated more aggressively, and providing a wealth of diagnostic information.

Numerous inspection and life assessment methods are available to measure the damage accumulated in tubes and determine the life and integrity of the tubes, each with varying levels of confidence. The effectiveness of internal and external inspection technologies varies throughout the tube’s life (as shown in Figure 1).

Figure 1. Inspection Technology Comparison
Figure 1. Inspection Technology Comparison

Additionally, reformer tube remaining life assessments are greatly dependent on the calculation method chosen and expert knowledge of each alloys’ unique behavior. Operators should consider all of these factors when building an integrity management program for their steam reformers.

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Comments and Discussion

Posted by mahendra kumar rastogi on July 20, 2015
Excellent article. However both laser based... Log in or register to read the rest of this comment.

Posted by ASIM UDDIN SHEIKH on December 8, 2021
Excellent Informative please share the... Log in or register to read the rest of this comment.

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